Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Arizona and Immigration (what's old is new)

I don’t understand the hysteria surrounding the immigrant “problem.” I think our message to the world has always been, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…….” I haven’t looked it up, but that’s what I remember from a high school history class my junior year. I’m now sixty seven, so it was a long time ago, but it stays in my mind.

My mother’s family is descended from the Choctaw tribe of indigenous people of the North American area now known as Mississippi. We come from people with an ancient culture, language, government and territory. We welcomed you immigrants with warmth. You came and liked what you saw. You decided to stay. And then those of us you couldn’t slaughter or kill with your exotic diseases, you eventually force-marched to Oklahoma, to live in an environment that was, compared to our native lands, barren, poor, uninhabitable, crowded, and ruled by the "Bureau of Indian Affairs" which was staffed with white immigrants from Europe, hostile to our language, customs, religion, food gathering and hunting practices. It was the mission of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to convince us, by force, that our beliefs, language, and customs were wrong and to indoctrinate us, to rid us of our “savage” ways. We all know how that worked out for my mother’s people. Eventually we intermarried with whites who stole even our Reservation lands. But the most damaging thing for my mother’s family was that all of this made them ashamed of who the were, where they came from, how they talked and looked. And so we began to pass for white. Hell, we became white. It is only through a DNA test that anyone would know that I am descended from a proud and beautiful people with a rich culture and language of it’s own, with lands both vast and fertile. We were rich. Now we barely exist. We are ghosts living among you.

So now, those of you one or two generations descended from those first European invaders, want to stop “illegal” immigration, to send back the eleven to sixteen million immigrants from South of the border. I think what bothers you most about these brown native American people from Mexico to Argentina is that they remind you of the Native Americans you tried to exterminate. Not you personally, of course, but your ancestors. These people "talk funny," they don’t speak your language, they have their own customs, food, and worst of all they are brown and they will color your precious white bloodlines. Well, get used to it. There is no stopping it. You can’t find them all and send them all packing. They are here to stay. They are the new America. Soon we will all be a little browner. I won’t live to see it, but I can’t wait for it to happen. Welcome my brothers and sisters. I’m glad to see you here at last. Interesting how history has a way of righting past wrongs.

This was first published 4/25/10